Tracy K. Lorenz ...

The Elks

I’ve started watching this show called Lodge 49, it’s about a loser who stumbles upon a fraternal lodge and his life takes a turn. A few years back I was forced to join a fraternal lodge and my life took a turn for exactly one day.

Years ago I was working for a company in Holland and the owner of the company, a guy named Marty, was both a bowler and a member of the Elks. Twice a year he would combine these passions and bowl in Elk bowling tournaments around the state. Well, this guy found out that I was a bowler with a league average significantly over 200, next thing I know he’s telling me I have to become an Elk so I can bowl with him in these tournaments even though that was about the last thing I wanted to do on earth.  Prior to finding out about my freakish and unintentional ability to heave a bowling ball this guy had never said a word to me, now suddenly we’re going to tour Michigan like Thelma and Louise.

I laid low hoping he’d forget but as tournament time approached the pressure increased, it was either Elk or unemployment.
I chose Elk.

One night I had a softball game in Grand Haven and the Elks lodge was sort of between me and the field our game was at. I stopped into the lodge and it looked just like they look on TV; a bartender, five guys and a woman sitting at the bar reflecting on bad life choices, and a guy sitting alone at a nearby table. I guessed that this scene looked the exact same every day forever, I’m not saying that as a bad thing, there’s a certain comfort in routine.

So I walked up to the bartender and said “What do I have to do to become an Elk?”  The sound of jaws hitting the table was acutely evident.  I was probably their first new member in a decade.  The bartender said “Do you have $7.50?” I said “Yes;” he said “Congratulation, you’re an Elk.”

I filled out a little blue card, shook some hands, and that was it. Except it wasn’t it.

The drunk guy at the table says, “Hold on, Bill will be here in a couple minutes.”

“Bill” was, like, the regional Elks Lodge membership director from Lansing making his bi-annual trip over to tell these guys they better increase membership or he’s shutting them down.  And minutes before Bill arrives some dork on a bike falls into their lap.

Then, because Bill is going to be there, they decide to go full bore initiation on me, everyone leaves the room including the bartender, he returns alone moments later wearing a black cloak with a hood and hustles me up a back stairway.  We arrive at a door at the top of the stairs and he does the secret knock on the door (the “secret knock” was one knock, I said “That’s the secret knock?” and he says “Yeah, no one would ever guess it” and he was right.) A voice from the other side of the door says “Who goes there?” and the bartender says “Who do you think it is a**hole, open the door”.

We enter the room and it’s the size of a basketball court, at the far end is a giant elk head, beneath the Elk head are five tall chairs like umpire chairs at a tennis tournament.  In the chairs sit the people who moments ago were sitting at the bar except now they’re also wearing cloaked hoods.

The bartender leads me in front of them, I’m wearing my softball uniform, they’re wearing their frightening getups, and all I can think is “I’ve got a game in fifteen minutes.”  The guy in the tallest chair starts rattling off questions he’s reading off a card and asking me to swear allegiance to things I’m pretty sure I’ve broken allegiance to at least ten times a day for my entire life. I agreed to everything because no penalty for violating my oath was ever mentioned.

When we were finished, the situational alcoholics hopped off their chairs and congratulated me, I was invited for drinks but I begged off because half a mile away my team was wondering where their shortstop was.

(One thing that sticks in my memory is the bartender chastised me for walking between the giant elk head on the wall and the Exalted Ruler [that’s his actual title, I think his name was Randy]).  Apparently that’s forbidden; wherever the Exalted Ruler is you have to walk around him so you never pass between him and the
Elk.  If I was the Exalted Ruler I’d make sure to lean up against the wall opposite the elk head just to get people in trouble.)

And that was that, it was kind of like a car crash where you’re just driving along, something unexpected occurs, and half an hour later you’re thinking “What the heck just happened?”  Well, what happened was I became an elk, a month later we came in third in a tournament in Midland (no thanks to Marty) and I kept my job.  I was in the Elk’s lodge exactly one time and a memorable time it was, I got initiated into a somewhat secret society and I got out in time to make it to my game without a minute to ... spare.

Printed by permission of the author. Email him at
Get Tracy’s latest book at or, or  download it from
Only $3.99, cheap.